By Sen. Roy Dyson

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Is the solution to increased traffic in St. Mary's County going to be a traffic light at every intersection? I hope not. But I am afraid we will need a few more. Same are needed right now.

There is a great conflict between the desire for traffic to move quickly and freely on main roads and the need for people to enter and exit those main roads to get to their homes and to shop. These conflicts are becoming blatantly apparent at some intersections which up until recently didn't seem to be any problem at all.

I know it is the Navy's desire to keep transportation corridors into and out of St. Mary's County as free of traffic lights as possible. They have an interest in making the travel time to and from the city as short as possible for the convenience of their workers. I support that idea wholeheartedly and will work wherever possible to insure that their wishes are met. But we have gone beyond the time we can flatly deny traffic lights for that reason alone.

Traffic lights aren't inherently bad. It hasn't been that long ago that the Route 235/245 intersection in Hollywood was without a traffic light. When the light was installed there were several major accidents as people got used to the idea. Now it would be hard to imagine that intersection without a traffic light. The obvious need for safety outweighs the inconvenience of waiting for a red light there.

The new traffic light at Routes 249 and 5 in Callaway is also working. That was a dangerous intersection. Folks coming to that intersection on Route 249 were at some hours finding it impossible to get out on Route 5. The traffic light and lane changes are a dramatic improvement. Safety has been achieved without slowing things down too much.

The next intersection planned for improvement is also needed right now: Route 5 and Flat Iron Road/Indian Bridge Road. There is not only an inconvenience there for people waiting but it is downright dangerous. Traffic in one direction on Route 5 is picking up steam from waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Traffic in the other direction is building up steam from going down a steep hill. At some hours of the day it is literally impossible to enter Route 5 without being an aggressive and dangerous driver.

I was the first elected official to propose a light there and have been dogged in my perseverance to see it happen. Unfortunately things have been a little slow as State Highway Administration and the county were negotiating with property owners on Flat Iron and Indian Bridge roads so that the needed realignment could be accomplished along with the traffic light.

I am happy to report that I was told this week that the negotiations are now complete and design and engineering for the intersection can now begin. Bids for the project are expected to be let this fall after the engineering is finished. Construction will begin in the spring. Since there is a road alignment it is taking longer than just putting up a light. I wish things could go faster but I have been assured this is as fast as possible for this project.

We have been unsuccessful so far in getting a light at Route 5 and Moakley Street in Leonardtown. This is a busy and dangerous intersection and the town commissioners have repeatedly asked for a light there. So far the state has denied the request. The town is about to ask again and we will support that request.

I also have been asked to take a look at the Routes 5 and 4 intersection south of Leonardtown. There have been several accidents there recently. This might be one intersection where flashing yellow warning lights may been needed now and a full or partial signaling later on. State highway officials have agreed to do a study of this intersection.

On another road issue, we are constantly being asked about the status of the Hughesville bypass. According to Larry Elliott in the district engineers office, an eastern route is the preferred option but the exact location is still under review by a local committee working with the state. There are apparently some wetlands concerns. This is another project that is going slower than I had hoped. We will continue to watch it.

Over the past several years we have gotten some really good ideas from the readers of this column about how to improve traffic. What better thing to think about sitting in that traffic jam. We have found SHA District Engineer Paul Armstrong to be most willing to listen to any and all suggestions and most interested in doing the right thing to get a safer and more efficient road network here in Southern Maryland. If you have any ideas please call my office at 301-994-2826 and we'll pass them along to him.

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